Identifying Speech and Language Disorders in Emergent Bilingual Children. What to Expect in a Bilingual Speech or Language Evaluation?
There is no research to prove that bilingualism causes speech or language disorders. However some children with bilingual language backgrounds, (also known as emergent bilinguals), may at times have difficulty learning speech sounds or language concepts.
These children may be evaluated and treated for speech and language disorders.
This post is to help you as a parent understand what speech and language disorders are and how they present in an emergent bilingual child.
The aim is to help you feel prepared if your emergent bilingual child is evaluated by a speech-language pathologist.
Finally you will find some suggestions for parents and other family members to support emergent bilingual children at home.
Here you will find the answers to the following questions:
- What are speech and language disorders and what do they look like in emergent bilingual children?
- What should I expect in a bilingual speech or language evaluation?
- How to prepare for a bilingual speech or language evaluation?
What are speech and language disorders and what do they look like in emergent bilingual children?
Broadly speaking, speech sound disorders occur when children have difficulty perceiving or producing speech sounds or speech segments.
In bilingual children, these difficulties with perception and production present in both (or all) of a child’s languages.
Language disorders occur when a person has difficulty understanding or reading another person’s ideas or when they have difficulty talking or writing about their own ideas.
Sometimes children with language disorders have difficulty with all of these activities.
In emergent bilingual children, language disorders present in both (or all) of a child’s languages.
This is different from the natural shifting language preferences and uses that almost all emergent bilingual children experience.
Usually, a speech or language disorder affects an emergent bilingual child’s ability to participate fully in play, school, or other activities.
When children become repeatedly frustrated about their difficulties with communication such as not being understood or being able to express their needs, it may be a good idea to consult with a speech-language pathologist.
At times, it might be necessary to find a bilingual speech-language pathologist who speaks the same language as your child.
Recommended: Types of speech and language disorders
What should I expect in a bilingual speech or language evaluation?
If your child is being considered for a speech or language delay or disorder, there are a few things that you should know about as a parent.
Speech or language evaluations of emergent bilingual children should address both (or all) of a child’s languages in some way during the evaluation.
There are many ways of capturing this information about your child’s language background and ability.
It may be that your child completes a bilingual speech or language test, tells a story to the examiner in both of their languages, or produces sounds in both languages.
If your child is younger than three years old, the speech-language pathologist may observe or play with your child to see how your child uses communication in a naturalistic way.
The speech-language pathologist may also ask you several questions about language use in your home.
How to prepare for a bilingual speech or language evaluation?
To prepare for a bilingual speech or language evaluation, you can think about the following questions.
- How do I communicate most of the time with my child?
- What languages do I use?
- What languages does my child understand?
- What languages does my child use to communicate with me?
- Does my child read or write in both (or all) of their languages?
- What other people communicate with my child on a daily basis and what languages do they speak?
- Does my child get frustrated during communication? When and why?
- How does my child communicate compared to other children?
- Does my child sound like other child of the same age?
- What words are hard for my child to say?
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Author: Claire Wofford, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
References American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Bilingual Service Delivery (Practice Portal). American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.) Speech Sound Disorders: Articulation and Phonology. Kohnert, K., Yim, D., Nett, K., Kan, P. F., & Duran, L. (2005.) Intervention With Linguistically Diverse Preschool Children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 36(3), 251-263. Genesee, F., Paradis, J., & Crago, M. B. (2011). Dual language development and disorders: A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning (2nd edition). Paul H. Brookes Pub. Co.